How I’m Coping

I was under the illusion that I would be healthy and invulnerable for many more years and then, in a blink, I wasn’t, courtesy of an aggressive cancer diagnosis. I’m in remission now but due to that disease and now over 65 years old, I find myself in a highly vulnerable demographic.

Like the echoes through the cancer wards, Covid has placed me once again into a “new normal”. I may not have full control over my life in these trying times but I still have choices. Cancer had an immense effect on my appreciation for my life. It taught me to exercise patience, empathy, compassion, generosity, flexibility and kindness. I learned to create, recreate, play and utilize my imagination in infinite ways. I learned to be aware of my own safety and take steps to ensure the best possible outcome. I’ve used these coping skills during this pandemic and they haven’t always been enough because my biggest vulnerability is what other people are doing.

I have occasionally experienced poor mental health as a result of the new normal. I too have had times where I felt like a prisoner in my own home and when I leave it there’s always a trepidation of fear about what I’m going to encounter. Will I enter a premise where someone isn’t wearing a mask (it happened a few times) or they don’t wear it properly (we’ve all seen brilliant examples of that one)? My mask works much better if yours does as well. I feel a deep sadness for the children and young adults in my life and I grieve over yet another threat to my safety that isn’t completely in my control.

I have learned to become more adept at adapting. When diagnosed with a life-threatening, life-altering disease, I looked for the gold in it. I looked at how I could expand myself. A gratitude practice has become my saviour. A motto of “Keep moving forward” my mantra. I have learned new skills and live within the limitations of this virus as I did with cancer. Anything, whether negative or positive can be a catalyst for personal growth.

Because of my fear of exposure, a few people have asked me how I intend to live as the restrictions lift. Here’s what I think about that today and it’s fluid.

I’ve had two years to think about the effects and impacts of Covid but I’ve just been waiting for it to end and not thinking about the long game – that is until I became aware of my prisoner mentality.

Although I miss downhill skiing, traveling, coffee and walks with friends, family visits, and going to restaurants I focus on what I can do. I soak up nature in all kinds of ways – kayaking, cycling, gardening, etc. I go on photo excursions, meditate, write, journal, read, exercise (at home), craft and enjoy Netflix. I shop online and utilize curbside pick-ups. On occasion, I risk exposure to go to the library when I know there’ll be low traffic.

I intend to live with a free mind. I will not allow myself to feel restricted or imprisoned. I won’t allow self-pity to consume me or complaining to be a coping skill. I won’t project my anger onto the world. I will enjoy my home as the retreat that it’s always been. I will continue to sacrifice and move through my feelings. I will make all efforts to express myself appropriately. I will strive to maintain balance through awareness. I will be grateful for what I have.

If our government removes the mask mandate down the road I will have to adapt again. This will throw me into quite a challenging hardship – isolating me to the max. How would I safely go for a haircut or to any other needed appointment such as physiotherapy, massage and specialist visits? Will I have to accept that the world considers me expendable now? Stay tuned.

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